I stand with WV teachers and other public employees, and I was proud to talk with them and stand with them on the street Saturday.
People are the heart of our state, and we must treat our state's employees with the respect they deserve. When I talk about People, not Politics, these are some of the people I'm talking about. The men and women who are on the front lines teaching our children, keeping us safe, doing all the critical work of government. Our government answers to us, and as West Virginians, we need to make sure we're treating our state employees fairly. We hear legislators talk about bringing "good jobs" to West Virginia all the while our state itself isn't being a good employer. We need to fix this.
A good place to start is fixing PEIA and giving our teachers, first responders, and other critical public employees real raises. (And, no, 1% a year is not a real raise!)
Last week's attempt by senate democrats to change the proposed meaningless 1% raise to a modest 3% raise was shamefully voted down by the majority republicans. My opponent Dave Sypolt voted along with his colleagues against the 3% raise, which clearly disappointed some of his constituents as well as the teachers and other state employees who are desperate for relief from their endlessly rising health care costs and shrinking paychecks.
The vast majority of West Virginians agree that our extremely low compensation for our teachers and many other critical state employees isn't right. Why then does our legislature choose to direct tax money to more corporate tax cuts instead of making a meaningful effort to pay our critical state employees fairly and fix the disastrous state employee health insurance system? The only reason I can see is that they are playing political games with our employees paychecks and health care. All of us on all sides of the aisle must be willing to put the needs of our people above politics and profit.
The failure of our leaders to meet their responsibilities to our state employees is simply another example of our leaders putting political games above the best interests of our people. They're not using their heads or their hearts when they're voting against treating our public employees with basic decency.
It's shameful that a full time teacher has to hustle second and third jobs and juggle insurance to take care of their families. What are we saying about our priorities as a state if a full time teacher can't support a family on their salary? When even a two teacher family struggles to keep up with their family's basic living expenses? Whatever we're saying isn't something I feel OK about.
I spoke to teachers who told me of decades without meaningful wage increases, working two and three extra jobs on top of their full time teacher job, being unable to retire after 38 years of service because of ever increasing PEIA premiums, shrinking paychecks due to increasing PEIA rates, and many other struggles. Many are understandably frustrated and ready to strike.
It's sad that it's come to this, but if our teachers need to strike to be heard, then that's what they have to do, and I'm standing with them. Perhaps our teachers will teach our legislators and all West Virginians a lesson that we once knew very well but very much need to remember -- a lesson in the power of people to influence their government.
It was awesome to see several great candidates standing with public employees, too. We have a good number of really incredible candidates in 2018. If we come together to support good candidates, our state government can begin working for our people instead of the other way around. Evan Hansen (House, District 51), Kendra Fershee (US Congress, District 1), Danielle Walker (House, District 51), and Sara Andersen (Monongalia County School Board) were all standing with public employees today.
This Friday afternoon, February 9th, I'll be at the Kingwood courthouse from 4 to 6 standing with Preston County public employees. Let's keep the pressure up all over the state until our government meets our responsibility to be an ethical employer to our public employees!